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First-Period Outburst Carries Montreal to 5-3 Win Over Calgary

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Times Staff Writer

The Stanley Cup playoffs have been like a dream for rookie goalie Mike Vernon of the Calgary Flames.

Vernon, who began the season in the minors, came out of nowhere to lead the Flames to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in the 14-year history of the franchise.

But the dream turned into a nightmare for Vernon and the Flames in the third game of the Stanley Cup finals Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens.

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Vernon gave up four goals on 16 shots in the first period before being pulled from the game, and the Canadiens went on to win, 5-3, before a standing room-only crowd of 18,072 fans at the Forum.

Montreal left wing Mats Naslund scored two first-period goals, both of which came on rebound shots, as the Canadiens took a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven series. The Canadiens have won two straight games after losing the first game of the series, which was played in Calgary.

Game four will be played here Thursday night. The Canadiens need two wins to capture their 23rd National Hockey League championship. It would be the most titles ever won by a professional sports team, surpassing the New York Yankees’ 22 world titles.

Naslund, who was born in Sweden, is nicknamed Le Viking by the French-Canadian fans here. There’s even a picture of him wearing a Viking helmet complete with horns on the cover of the Canadiens’ program.

Swedish-born players have often by criticized in the NHL. More than one NHL coach has complained that Swedish players won’t go into the area in front of the net for rebounds because they’re afraid of getting hit.

Although Naslund is only 5-7 and weighs 160 pounds, he isn’t afraid to drive to the net and get hit if it means scoring a goal.

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“Mats is a winner,” Montreal Coach Jean Perron said. “He wants to win as much as our other guys like Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey, and he does what it takes to win. I’ve heard some negative comments about the Swedes, but Mats is not like that.”

Robinson also played well for the Canadiens, finishing with two assists. Naslund’s first goal came on a rebound of a shot by Robinson. Bobby Smith scored when he redirected a pass from Robinson in the slot.

The Flames dominated the first 18 minutes of the game and led, 2-1.

However, the Canadiens scored three consecutive goals against Vernon on shots by Smith, Naslund and Gainey in the span of just 68 seconds late in the opening period to turn the game around.

The last two goals Vernon allowed came on back--to-back shots just 16 seconds apart.

“The two quick goals were very welcome,” Perron said. “I think we’re going to play even better on Thursday night.”

Calgary Coach Bob Johnson pulled Vernon for backup veteran goalie Reggie Lemelin with 21 seconds left in the first period. During a break in play that was caused by a fight, Johnson motioned for Vernon to come to the bench.

Asked why he pulled Vernon, Johnson said: “Mike Vernon has done a great job for us in 21 games. But the Canadiens scored three goals and in all fairness to Vernon, I just felt we had to get another fresh guy in from the bullpen. We’d just like to have the last two minutes of the first period back.”

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Said Vernon: “I don’t think I played a bad game. Look at the goals I gave up, they came on rebounds. We were allowing a second rebound and even a third rebound sometimes. If you say I played a bad game, I disagree with that.

“No one likes to get pulled. When I came to the bench the coach said, ‘good game Mike, it’s not your fault.’ I’m not going to hang my head.”

Said Naslund: “I don’t think Vernon played a bad game. He was unlucky.”

While Vernon had his problems, rookie goalie Patrick Roy of the Canadiens had another strong game.

Roy faced 26 shots and made 23 saves. All three of the goals he allowed came while the Flames were on power plays.

“Patrick is a reliable goaltender,” Perron said.

The Flames had two power plays at the start of the game and they cashed in on the second one when right wing Joey Mullen scored at 5:45 of the opening period when he redirected a pass from Joel Otto into the net.

But Naslund scored his first goal just 1:05 later to tie it.

The Flames regained the lead when Otto scored a power-play goal with 2:01 left in the period.

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But the Flames self-destructed in the closing minutes of the period as the Canadiens scored three straight goals to take a 4-2 lead.

The Flames got back to within one at 4-3 when Lanny McDonald scored a power-play goal on a rebound at 7:13 of the second period.

Montreal scored its insurance goal with just 38 seconds left in the second period when Kjell Dahlin put in a rebound of a shot by teammate Gaston Gingras.

Stanley Cup Notes

Calgary right wing Joey Mullen had to be helped from the ice in the third period after he was checked into the boards head first by Montreal defenseman Gaston Gingras. Mullen suffered a stiff neck and he’ll be examined again today. . . . Wing Brett Hull, who was signed by the Flames out of college earlier this month, made his pro debut in Tuesday night’s game. Hull wore No. 16, which was the same number his father, Bobby, wore during his first professional season. Hull just missed scoring a goal on his first shot of the game, hitting the post on a power play.

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